I have so many times heard people say they struggle so much with the Bible. They say they don’t understand it or get anything out of it. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are just some simple guides for how to read the Bible. Notice I said, read, not study. Just relax and read it.
Pray like this before you start: Lord, please use Your Word to help me see myself and my life as You do, and then use Your Word to change me from who I am, to who You want me to be. Notice that the prayer is personal. You want to learn about you and change you. It isn’t about your neighbor or your children or your spouse. Second, it is asking for the truth, even if it hurts. You want to see yourself as God see you. In other words, “show me my sins!” Don’t read the Bible to feel better, or to have peace or to gain something. Read it because you want the truth about yourself good and bad and you want to change. If you think of yourself as “pretty good”, you are like the Pharisees in the book, and you will not like the Bible at all. If you see yourself as a seriously awful sinner who needs change the Bible will not disappoint you.
Accept the simple truths of what you read. Most of the bible is not complicated. It says what it says. The reason people usually find it difficult is they don’t want to accept what it says, they don’t want to change. If you believe A + B + C = D, and you read in the Bible that D + C + B = A, you now have to choose one of the following:
- Believe the Bible and change your beliefs and your life.
- Decide the Bible is wrong, therefore not written by God and reject the book as foolishness.
- Try to twist the Bible’s words so they mean what you believe and so you don’t have to change your life.
Most people choose 3, which then does make the entire Bible a complicated riddle. God wants you to choose 1. If you do not choose 1, He clearly would rather have you choose 2 than 3. God hates # 3.
Read it just to read it. Once there was a young monk who was struggling with sin in his life and he spoke to an older monk about it. The older monk told him to get a basket, fill it with sand, and set it outside his door. Every day he was to read his Bible, then pour a bucket of water on the basket of sand. Come back in one month with the basket of sand. The young monk thought it was ridiculous, but humbly obeyed. One month later he returned with the empty basket. The older monk asked him, “Do you know what drop of water washed away what grain of sand?” “Of course not,” answered the young monk. “So it is with reading the Bible. You do not know what Word of God washes away what sin or bad habit, but over time, it changes you just as much as the water changed the contents of the basket.”
You don’t have to understand everything you read. You don’t have to “get something out of it” every time. If your spouse or child wrote short stories, you would read them even if you didn’t enjoy them, simply because you loved your spouse or child and wanted to be closer to them. God and the Bible are the same. Be ok with not understanding something – do you really think you should be able to always understand the thoughts of God!
Lastly, start with the New Testament. Pick it up, pray earnestly, and simply read day after day after day after day. God will do the rest.